The Employment Plight of the Military Spouse

The lives of active duty military personnel are fraught with danger and uncertainty. While there is undoubtedly the draw and value of excitement, new experiences, seeing the world, and serving honorably, there can never be a doubt that those who decide to live the military life are willing to make incredible sacrifices. The lesser-known aspect of that coin, however, comes in the form of the challenges faced by those who tie their lives to our soldiers. All too often overlooked and unconsidered, these issues are quite impactful. We at Stewart Cooper and Coon intend to make all efforts to bring to light those whose support and contribution is invaluable and, all too often, overlooked.

Military Spouse - Bride and Groom

Those hard numbers are troublesome and not to be ignored. As of 2017, from data brought to us by the annual demographics report of the DoD (Department of Defense) which provides an extensive profile of the military community at large, the spouses of active duty military personnel face a staggering 24% unemployment rate. Of the remaining 76% gainfully employed over 31% of those individuals find themselves in the position of working part-time jobs, even though there would very much prefer, and in many cases outright need, to find full-time positions.

Interview Bias

Interviews can be a significant challenge for even the most competent professionals. The list of individuals with, perhaps a Masters in Biochem, a dozen certifications of excellence across a spectrum of industries, a decade or two of directly related experience, proven dedication to a chosen career path and notable advancement. All of these factors — nominally understood to be extraordinarily important to securing a position with a new company — taken together, seem to all but guarantee success (with ease, no less). It can therefore be something of a surprise to find that, among military spouses, there are a plethora of individuals with the notable record listed above (and many far more advanced) that find themselves turning to penny pincher magazines or finding themselves grateful (albeit extremely frustrated nonetheless) to find a piecemeal part-time position at a local cafe.

The recruiting process often finds a solid home for a host of unconscious and social biases. Among the strongest of those that can cause an interviewer to look askance at the hopeful person across the table are the very same that arise so often with military families, through no direct fault of their own. These often include, but are far from limited to, the unavoidable gap of long-term employment with a single company, paired with extended periods of outright lapse of employment—both most often due to the nature of military deployment and the necessary relocation of a soldier’s dependents. So to tack on the stress of moving across the country (or globe) multiple times at the drop of a hat (or helmet), the military spouse often suffers the brunt of one of the professional world’s most unpalatable stigmas: the dreaded resume gap. Of course, if the interviewer cared to simply ask as to why the applicant moved around so much, the answer would be both clear and quickly forthcoming. All too often, however, that important mitigating question is never even ventured.

Military Spouse - Office person

Exclusion from key programs and services

Another major obstacle encountered is that despite the host of special programs directed toward the transition of military service members from active service to the private sector, the military spouse is often left out of this equation. Even looking toward the considerable boom in the last decade or so of private companies and organizations dedicated (sometimes in full scope) toward this vital transition, we find very few who take any particular notice of the families of veterans, much less move to include them in their efforts and focus.

We encourage all our readers and partners to consider supporting some of the organizations that are dedicated to working with veterans (and especially their families), such as: the United Service Organizations, Blue Star Families, Hiring Our Heroes, and many more.

Stewart Cooper & Coon is proud to be listed among such organizations in our efforts to find the best opportunities for those involved in the military-to-private transition, and a wealth of articles dedicated to this topic may be found here.

Fred Coon, CEO


Stewart, Cooper & Coon offers Human Capital Strategy Serviceto both individuals and corporations. Our staff is dedicated to our clients’ success via innovative job search processes, employment management strategies, and state-of-the-art technologies. Contact Fred Coon – 866-883-4200, Ext. 200